New York City’s much-anticipated public Wi-Fi initiative has gone live. LinkNYC offers those within range of the kiosks free one gigabit Internet access, as well as convenient charging ports for mobile devices.
The one-gigabit kiosks started offering free Internet services, in beta, at 8 a.m. on a bitterly cold Tuesday morning. Six other kiosks will go online during the next few weeks. In the meantime, CityBridge will erect more 9.5-foot-tall pillars throughout the five boroughs, first along Eighth Avenue, then up to northern Manhattan and into the Bronx. The initiative plans to install 7,500 such hubs around the city over the next eight years. In addition to Web services, the kiosks offer free phone-charging ports. Eventually they will offer free phone calls and a tablet for Web browsing.
The cost for the kiosks is expected to be offset by the 55-inch displays that show ads and public service announcements.
When users are near a kiosk, they simply need to select the “LinkNYC Free Wi-Fi” hotspot on their device’s Wi-Fi settings, and they will automatically connect. For users who are worried about security, encrypted connections are available, they just require a set of additional steps to setup.
“As good citizens of the internet, we want to encourage people to use secure connections,” said Miles Green, director of infrastructure engineering at Intersection, the technology and design company that created the hubs. He made the comment Tuesday morning as he sat inside a Starbucks about 30 feet from a LinkNYC hotspot on the corner of 15th Street and Third Avenue.
While each hotspot has a guaranteed one gigabit of bandwidth, individual users are likely to experience upload and download speeds of closer to 300 megabits, which is still faster than most landline connections in the U.S. While a 150 foot range is guaranteed, it could extend up to 400 feet, depending on the surrounding environment.
How fast do the kiosks perform in the real world? “I’m embarrassed to say that I went to download a 21 minute Jersey Shore clip, and it happened so quickly that I wasn’t able to show you,” Green said, adding that his wife uploaded a batch of photos from a digital camera in around a minute and a half, a process that took two and a half hours in his home.